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Blog post Reimagining a curriculum for teacher knowledge

Editorial: Reimagining a curriculum for teacher knowledge

Introducing a special issue of the BERA Blog that offers insights into a new curriculum for teacher knowledge that's fit for the 21st century.

Gerry Czernisawski, BERA Engagement Chair, University of East London

On Saturday 23 February 2019 guest speakers from the four nations gathered at the De Vere Holborn Bars in London. The all-day event, held by the British Curriculum Forum (BCF), provided an opportunity for educational professionals across different education systems and sectors to come together and reimagine a curriculum for teacher knowledge for the 21st century. The day enabled participants to engage with theoretical, innovative and practical aspects of the curriculum, and continue Lawrence Stenhouse’s practice of curriculum research and development.

‘The British Curriculum Forum event provided an opportunity for educational professionals across education systems and sectors to reimagine a curriculum for teacher knowledge for the 21st century.’

This blog introduces a series of articles, to be published over the next few weeks, that will give a flavour of the day’s proceedings, and are written by some of the guest speakers and participants who took part in the event.

Between 2010 and 2015 the governments of the four nations that comprise the UK reviewed national arrangements for teacher education. At the BCF event in February, a group of teacher educators working in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales came together to review the development of national and local curricula for early career support. The first blog in this series is written by Moira Hulme, Linda Clarke, Gary Beauchamp and Beth Dickson, and considers the progress made in advancing professional learning in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

In the second article in this series, Beth Dickson asks, ‘What do teachers need to know to be able to teach, and how and when do teachers learn?’ Her article considers responses to these questions, and offers starting points for the construction of a curriculum for teacher knowledge.

In 1938, John Dewey argued for the need for an approach to education based on a ‘theory of experience’. In his article, Kevin Smith critically examines this argumentation and asks how we can and should differentiate between miseducative experiences and meaningful educative experiences for pupils and teachers alike.

The recent climate protests involving youngsters going on ‘strike’ provides the stimulus for Laura Colucci-Gray’s reflection on the nature of curriculum. She reminds us that as early as 1975, Lawrence Stenhouse referred to curriculum as a ‘stick to beat the teachers with’, capturing the teachers’ fundamental problem of ensuring that students attain well on tests (which determine their right to progress in education) while at the same time preventing the exertion of both children’s and their own freedom and judgment. Collucci-Gray’s thought provoking article challenges its readers into considering broader interpretations of all things curricula – that being educated and being able to act and live well in one’s environment require new thinking about the nature of the educational relationship, and about how such relationships are enacted in multiple contexts that we share with others.

Martin Mills acknowledges that a number of premises underpin his think piece about ‘reimagining a curriculum for social justice’. They include the assumptions that we need an education system with broad purposes – one that is committed, beyond academic outcomes, to benefitting society and individual wellbeing – and that a rich socially just curriculum is central to that. In his article he draws on the work of Nancy Fraser (2010) to suggest what this curriculum might look like.

At the start of her article, Rachel Lofthouse argues that as changes in the curriculum appear on the horizon it is essential for teachers and school leaders to engage critically and constructively with the opportunities and tensions that emerge. Teachers are used to making both reactive and proactive decisions, and those needed to put curriculum into action are no exception. Rachel’s blogpost is based on her workshop (‘Using coaching and mentoring to focus on the curriculum in action’), delivered at the BCF event in February 2019.

Sharon Jones argues that in these troubling times, connecting and the curriculum are crucial. As a teacher educator in Northern Ireland, she has become increasingly aware that connecting and learning go hand in hand, and that this has important implications for curriculum in both schools and teacher education. In her compelling article she shares her reflections about connecting learning, connecting times and cultures, and connecting people.

In the final article of this special edition we asked Sarah Seleznyov, director of the London South Teaching School Alliance, to offer her reflections on the day’s contributions as a member of the audience. Her article concludes with three thought-provoking questions that capture the implications of many of the discussions generated at this event.

  1. Since effective curriculum development relies on a continually developing workforce, how do we achieve continuity in learning from initial teacher trainingthrough to longstanding teachers?
  2. How can we enable teachers to develop a deep understanding of curriculum ‘intent’ so that they can get the curriculum right for our pupils and their community?
  3. How can we provide opportunities for teachers to work together with pupils to develop exciting curricula that fuse both knowledge and knowing, and which promote both social justice and global awareness?

We hope you enjoy this special issue of the BERA Blog. The editorial team intends to publish these articles later in the year as part of a wider collection of articles on the curriculum for a new entry in the BERA Bites series.


References

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Phi Delta Kappa.

Fraser, N. (2010). Scales of justice: Reimagining political space in a globalizing world. New York: Columbia University Press.

Stenhouse, L. (1975). An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development. London: Heinemann Educational Books.